The Historic Old Seminary in India towards its bicentenary

Fr. Dr. Jacob Kurian
Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam
The Indian Malankara Orthodox Church

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The Old Seminary, Kottayam, a historic center of the ancient Orthodox Christian community in Kerala, towards its bicentenary.

#Land for Seminary donated  by Her Highness Gowri Parvathy Bhai, the Queen of  Travancore. 
 #Earliest English-education centre in Travancore. 
 #First centre for the study of foreign languages in the State.
 #First co-ordinating centre of public education in the State of Kerala. 
 #Provides Masters and Bachelors degree in Orthodox Theological education
 #The first venue to the translation of Bible into unified and standardized Malayalam vernacular
#The first venue of the composition of Malayalam-English, English-Malayalam dictionaries.

 #The bi-centenary inauguration of the Seminary to be held on 2nd February 2014.

The St. Thomas Christians, commonly known as ‘Malankara Nazranis’, form the most ancient Christian Community in India. They are mostly concentrated in Kerala and their history during the last two centuries is very much related to “the Old Seminary” at Kottayam. History of Old Seminary is always indebted to the benevolence of the Royal Family of Travancore.

Her Highness Gauri Lakshmibai of Travancore granted a land free of cost to Pulikkottil Ittoop Ramban (later Malankara Metropolitan  Joseph Mar Dionysius Pulikkottil) to build a “Seminary” (Padithaveedu) for Orthodox Christians. The Regent Ruler Gauri Parvatibai was also a great supporter of the Seminary. The then British resident Col. Manroe was the mediator for the royal grants. The foundation was laid in February 1813 and the “Nalukettu” (Quadrangular Edifice) was available for clergy training in 1815. Soon, it became the earliest English-education centre in Travancore, the location for the first printing press, the first centre for the study of foreign languages and the first co-ordinating centre of public education in the State.

The year 2015 marks the 200th anniversary, of the founding of “the Old Seminary” or “the Cottayam College” or “the Syrian Seminary”.

Modern history of Kerala should begin with the enlightenment that followed the spread of English and vernacular education started at the “Cottayam College” or Old Seminary in the early 19th century. The English scholar-missionaries collaborated with the local Christian Church to provide education to the young people and to train the ministerial candidates at the Seminary. There were classes in English language, coaching for civil service aspirants, and instruction in some of the important languages including Latin, Syriac and Sanskrit. The book entitled “A Century of English Education in Travancore 1817-1917” states the following:

“The earliest school in the State where English was regularly taught was that started in the Syrian College or Seminary at Kottayam” (p.1)

The missionaries moved in 1837 to a nearby campus which later became the CMS College, Kottayam. Then onwards the Seminary came to be known as ‘Old Seminary’.

The Seminary or ‘the Old Seminary’ as the premier modern public educational institution became the nerve centre of a chain of vernacular schools started to oblige the Royal exhortations to promote vernacular education, since 1868. With the emergence of these schools, the Seminary concentrated more on clergy education and continued to be the headquarters of the Malankara Church, known today as “the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church or even the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church”.

A modern phase of the history of the Seminary began in 1965. It assumed the status of a theological college affiliated to the University system of the Senate of Serampore (West Bengal).

At present, the Old Seminary which is the same “Orthodox Theological Seminary” is running residential study programmes in theology at three levels viz. the BD (Bachelor of Divinity) Degree, M.Th (Master of Theology) Post-Graduate Degree, and D.Th (Doctor of Theology) Research Degree. There are about 200 students from different parts of India and the World and 25 Professors with Doctoral Degrees.

There are a few highlights more about the associated activities of the Seminary as it confidently enter the thresholds of bicentenary celebration: The serene Chapel of the Seminary continues to be the source of inner illumination for the inmates and pilgrims. The Nalukettu depicts the architectural beauty of the 18th and 19th centuries and houses a heritage museum. The Sophia Centre is the conference and retreat venue on the campus.  The Federated Faculty for Research in Religion and Culture (FFRRC) is a joint ecumenical programme of Orthodox, Mar Thomas and CSI Seminaries in Kerala, for Research-oriented higher studies in Theology. The Sruti School of Music is a recognized centre of Christian music-studies with special emphasis on Syriac Music. Mar Gregorios Foundation (M.G.F) is to promote the ideals and philanthropic services of the late Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios, the former Principal and world renown thinker. The Pratyasa Counseling Programme, the Divyabodhanam and the Saroopya School of Art are programmes to train clergy and laity in Counseling, Faith and Art respectively. The Smriti houses an auditorium, a media-room, an ecumenical hall and modernized Library cum Archives. The eco-friendly serene campus with its scenic beauty and a garden of medicinal herbs is an attraction for visitors and those seeking quietness.

Under the Patronage of His Holiness Baselius Mar Thoma Paulos II the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan, the Supreme head of the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church, the Seminary equips itself for the celebration of Bi-centenary in 2015. The bi-centenary inauguration of the Seminary on 2nd February 2014 is envisaged as an auspicious moment to launch multi-faceted projects and programmes to elevate the Seminary as a distinguished centre of learning and witnessing, in the service to God and humanity. The ‘Sreyas’ bicentenary building construction in memory of Metropolitan Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios will be new house for students and the old seminary quadrangle will be transformed as the Church Museum.

For more details: http:
Orthodox Theological Seminary,
Post Box. No. 98,
Kottayam – 686 001
Ph: 0481-2566526, 2568083, 2568500

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